- January 11, 2020 at 10:56 pm #99107January 14, 2020 at 3:18 am #99108lonzoeParticipant
Danny Elfman at the Dolittle PremiereJanuary 14, 2020 at 7:32 pm #99111
Four-time Academy Award®-nominated composer Danny Elfman”who has worked with producer Roth on films from Alice in Wonderland to Oz the Great and Powerful and Downey-starring movies such as Avengers: Age of Ultron”brings his signature sound to Dolittle.
For the filmmakers, there was no contest: Elfman is the best in the business. “I never heard another score for this movie than Danny’s work,” Gaghan says. “I wanted it to have that joyous, slightly unhinged, Simpsons, Tim Burton quality. I was living in a house in Notting Hill, and Danny came into the kitchen with my kids running around with household chaos. We were humming ideas at each other for three hours. In the cab on the way back, he came up with the main theme for the movie and sang it into his phone. He did a little work on it in the cab, sent it to his studio in L.A. and they did a little technical fix-up on it. About 45 minutes after he left my house, he sent back the main theme of Dolittle. And when we were in London recording the final score, nearly every piece of music in the movie still radiates from his moment of inspiration in the taxi.”
Susan Downey loved working with Elfman. “I don’t know who could have done this score other than Danny,” Susan Downey says. “Dolittle has action, adventure and real heart”while it’s also quirky as heck”which forces us to have to tick a lot of boxes when it comes to composers. Danny’s music does all those things effortlessly. He is unpredictable, and therefore his scores are incredibly unique. He brings the quirky fun, plus the movie’s mystical-magical quality…as well as the heart at its core.”
Susan Downey believes that when you hire someone like Elfman, you’re asking him to elevate the movie musically. Beginning their process together by naming each cue in the film, the producers introduced intention to Elfman and passed the creative baton. “Each time we went over to his studio to hear the next round of cues, it was very exciting,” Susan Downey says. “We wondered, ‘What are we going to hear today, and how is Danny going to change it up?’ He made entire sequences very intentional. In editing, you try to find the right rhythm and length to sequences that have been shot to make the story work. Just with his cue from beginning to end of a sequence, Danny complemented and elevated all our choices.”
Although she would be hard-pressed to pick her favorite, Susan Downey believes that two of the recurring themes that Elfman chose for the movie are standouts. “The first incredible one is the theme created between Dolittle and his animals that captures the essence of their family,” Susan Downey says. “What Danny says about each theme is that it should be something that’s not only memorable, but one that can be distilled very clearly into just a few memorable notes”one that builds up into something massive. Throughout the movie, throughout the score, we hear different variations on that same theme. This allows it to be familiar but dressed up each time for a new situation.”
Likewise, the producer was drawn to the theme Elfman created for John and Lily Dolittle, as well as the fanciful movements within each cue. “It’s simply beautiful,” Susan Downey says. “Dolittle’s wife has passed before the movie begins, and he is hurting inside. Whenever he sees something that reminds him of Lily”or is doing something that they would have done together”that theme creeps in. It’s heartbreaking and absolutely beautiful.”
As Dolittle has many visual effects that were in various stages of rendering as Elfman scored, the composer was often responding to sketches on the screen. The producers worked with him to give intention to every scene. “Once we filled him in with what a scene would eventually look like,” Susan Downey says, “Danny would say, ‘I know exactly what I need to do.’ The movie takes you on this epic journey, and Danny brings that grandeur to it. Still, he brings a unique sound to each of our lead characters as well, and that’s something that as a fan of Danny’s music always is looking for. He nailed it.”
While Elfman ultimately scored Dolittle at the storied AIR Studios in London with an orchestra, his more-than-a-year process with Gaghan began quite simply. For the composer, it was an easy entre. “I met Stephen, and we hit it off,” Elfman says. “It was very much his asking, ‘Do you want to do it?’ and I said, ‘Sure, let’s start!’ I’m a big fan of Robert Downey as well and welcomed the fun challenge of writing a big, epic narrative type of a score for this classic story.”
Elfman was pleased to be brought into the process quite early and began his work inspired by rough sketches. “There was a lot of artwork early on, and I started writing little bits and pieces to just the art before there was a movie,” Elfman says. “For this type of score, the most important thing is coming up with simple and effective themes. We found the themes early on”both from the artwork and visiting the set while Stephen was shooting, hanging out a bit. I started getting a feel for it, and once I had that then everything fell into place.”
As iterations of Dolittle’s story have been told in many different formats, Elfman had little interest in treading familiar ground. “I approached this in the same way that I would approach any kind of classic story”one based on a series of books that’s been known for generations,” Elfman says. “For example, I wanted to give Dolittle a very different feel and tone than Alice in Wonderland. The fact that the movies are so different makes it easy to keep them from sounding alike, actually.”
Although some composers prefer to create multiple character themes, Elfman has long eschewed that route. Well, almost always. “I avoid character themes except when I absolutely have to,” Elfman says. “The one exception is if it’s a cartoon movie and you’ve got a very clear super bad guy.”
The artist believes the music and intention become complicated when a film has five, six themes or more. “If you want an audience to remember a score, you must keep it to two or three thematic pieces,” Elfman says. “The important thing for me is not playing a theme for a character, and no character has a theme in Dolittle. The story has a theme, and the different sides of the story have thematic pieces that play them; the fundamental theme here is what I call the ‘family’ one. It isn’t Doctor Dolittle’s theme. It’s one that plays the coming together of a family of diverse creatures.
“The other is a romantic theme that plays every time we refer to Lily, Dolittle’s beloved wife who has died,” Elfman continues. “Then there are little subthemes that play this-and-that different elements, but melodically there’s the two primary themes. The score follows the movie, so as the movie develops”as does the themes and the tone”the score becomes more adventure-oriented, while part of it stays very heartfelt. Even though it’s a big film, it still feels like a charming, lovely intimate one. It’s expansive but still about coming together and creating family. That’s what appealed to me in the first place, and I hope that’s what people take away from it.”
Time and time again, the musician finds himself returning to productions that are animation heavy. Having been a part of the production since early sketches, animatics and 2D renders, it was thrilling for him to see the film come together in its final form. “It’s been so enjoyable to see Dolittle come together,” Elfman says. “For months, I’ve worked to storyboards”sometimes unfinished animated sequences”and I imagine what they might look like. Then, suddenly at the end, all these shots come in, and I go ‘Wow! That looks amazing.’ I’ve been scoring a film to pictures of polar bears and ostriches”getting glimpses of what these extraordinary animals look like. That’s the great surprise because as a composer we don’t get to see what scenes and characters look like…until we’re either close to being done or actually finished.”
When it came to his collaborators, the composer returns Susan Downey’s kind sentiments. “It was a lovely film to work on and a lovely crew of people, and it all went down very smoothly,” Elfman says. “I’m grateful for that. What I like about working with Susan is that her input is very clear and concise, and when you’re a composer, that means a lot. You don’t have to go through a strange kind of alchemy or psychoanalytical process to figure out what is or isn’t working. “Her kind of clarity makes the composer’s job much more enjoyable and simpler. Every time I played music for her, she’d respond quickly and clearly. Her notes were concise and always understandable, and that takes a great amount of stress out of the process.”January 14, 2020 at 9:38 pm #99112DannyBikerParticipant
This continues the great trend of Elfman coming up with themes in means of transport.January 15, 2020 at 7:43 pm #99114
Getting savaged by the critics.January 16, 2020 at 9:17 am #99115DannyBikerParticipant
As everyone expected. Could very well become the worst rottentomatoes score for Elfman, right ?January 16, 2020 at 11:52 am #99116lonzoeParticipant
Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed, and Tulip Fever rival it in worst rotten tomatoes score.January 16, 2020 at 12:15 pm #99117
All released within three years.January 16, 2020 at 7:08 pm #99118January 16, 2020 at 8:08 pm #99119
I’m liking this so much more on my second listen. The ‘Lilly’ theme is just lovely.February 1, 2020 at 3:35 pm #99134
Saw the, sinfully boring, movie today.
Additional music by Chris Bacon.
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